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First row start for Toyota Gazoo Racing in Bahrain

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Toyota Gazoo Racing narrowly missed out on pole position in a closely-fought qualifying session for the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.

The #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López held top spot for much of the session but was denied a fifth pole of the season in the closing minutes by Porsche #1. They will start from second. 

It was a more challenging qualifying for the #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima which will start from fourth.

Despite missing its target of pole position, the team is determined to fight for a fifth win from nine races in Saturday’s six-hour contest.

The majority of the race will take place in darkness so qualifying also took place after sunset, with Mike and Kazuki behind the wheel of their respective cars at the beginning of the session.

Mike immediately put the #7 car in a strong position by becoming the first LMP1 driver to lap the Bahrain International Circuit in less than 1min 40secs. However, Kazuki encountered traffic on his lap and recorded the fourth fastest time.

On his single flying lap, with new tyres, José put the #7 in pole position but was dropped back to second when the #1 Porsche chose to make a third attempt, on a third set of new tyres, and narrowly earned top spot by 0.263secs.

With a significant gap to pole position, the team opted to conserve tyres on the #8 car with a view to Saturday’s race therefore Anthony set his qualifying lap on a used set, which gave him little chance of improving on fourth position.

Nevertheless, the #8 car has won three times this season from the second row of the grid so hopes are high of another challenge as TOYOTA targets a winning end to the 2017 season on a track where it has twice before stood on the top step of the podium.